Americas rolling on a month long Freestyle flex show, Zach Tanellis Columbia Lions take the Tournament tune-up route, and the news heat hits triple digits down South.
AMERICA AND MEDALS : A SWEET, SWEET SUMMER ROMANCE
The United States has been gathering precious medals across continents and time zones all Summer, it seems. What was seemingly a penultimate performance by our Men and Women’s Senior Freestyle teams at the Tokyo Olympics was outdone by our youngsters not 2 weeks later. In no way will America, its wrestling fans, or supporters of the USA in general ever forget our amazing run at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. By the same token only those deep inside our youth programs or long involved in the coverage of them could or would have ever predicted what happened in Ufa, Russia. In a full Ten weight class field our Junior Mens Freestyle team earned an astonishing 5 medals, 3 Golds and 2 Bronzes. More exciting still is the opportunity to watch these incredible young men compete for years at the collegiate level for a half dozen different teams across the country. If there’s a unifying theme its that America remains STRONG up the middle, folks, with 4 of our 5 medalists competing from 70 to 97KG. BTW, if you’re looking for a team within Team USA, look to the Missouri Tigers. Brian Smiths crew came clawing straight outta Columbia with 3 squadmembers for America and a pair of Gold Medalists. #TigerStyle looks set for a special, special season, or, two, or three, come college time. As great as our young mens showing was, the ladies in the Red, White and Blue went full destruct mode on everyone and everything in site. Color the American Women Junior World Champions for 2021, thank you VERY much. The story was not the 5 medals won, 4 Golds and 1 Bronze by our young women. It was the World Title, first time ever for them. Most of all, it was the epic scale (1) of the USA success. The medal winning women had a cumulative match score of 148-23. They also earned two pins. One came at the 1:05 mark in the first period. Nowhere NEAR quickest. One Gold Medal match finished with an American flattening her talented foe in an absurd 17 seconds. These are the World Championships folks. NOT supposed to go like that. These are YOUR 2021 Junior World Womens Freestyle CHAMPIONS. Let that sink in. Let THIS sink in as well: had there been a combined team Freestyle title at the Olympics, our men and women would have won that as well. Its a Golden Age for grappling in so many ways for the
OLD PROGRAM, NEW THREAT: COLUMBIA READY TO ROAR
The Lions last popped up here in the Season 3, Column 20 edition (1/13/20). The foundation that came with being the Nations oldest program competing in the Nations oldest, biggest conference was getting a VERY stylish and sturdy buildup. Head Coach/Chief Architect Zach Tanelli and his Lions had come off a stellar 2019 campaign that saw 6 Columbia grapplers grab podium spots at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships and Senior Dan Reed roll into the NCAAs. Columbia built on that momentum, finishing 8-6 in 2020 and doubling their NCAA qualifying wrestlers total. Then….well, you know what happened March of last year. Hint: it wasn’t wrestling. The biggest pile, though, unloaded 8 months later. This past November the ancient and hoary institution known as the Ivy League issued their final and forceful, (CYA) Covid-19 induced edict: NO winter Sports. Columbias two season surge went from 100 to zero harder than Wiley E. Coyote into a cliff face. These Lions are no cartoon carnivore, though, and they ably sidestepped that falling anvil of a decision and took straight aim at 2021-2022. Rostered and ready are 29 sturdy felines. Freshmen and Sophomores comprise 20 of that group and they taper nicely to the top with six juniors and three seniors. 2020s Most Outstanding Award winner, 125lb Joe Manchio, is a threat to win 30 matches and All American status. Also back, the Most improved grappler from Columbias last campaign, 174lb Lennox Wolak. However, Alpha Male 141lb Matt Kazimir is, according to his LinkedIn profile, on a voluntary leave of absence.* Kazimirs 18 wins led all freshmen 2 years back. His 26 W’s topped the whole team last time out. He won the Princeton and the Patriot Open and made the E.I.W.A. finals. Tough loss to swallow, but NEXT LION UP, folks. Might be junior 141lb Danny Fongaro, who held down the weight class with 16 wins before stepping back for a year when Kazimir came up in weight. Other stars include sophomore 133lb Angelo Rinni, 8th at the 2020 E.I W.A.s and ready to step up. Theres a sleeper star at 157lbs, Kyle Mosher, 24-12 for Columbias 118th season, Kyles first in the Blue and White. The big accolades, though, coming into 21-22 no doubt belong to Volunteer Assistant Coach Shelton Mack. Mack walks the walk in tutoring the Lions. Hes both the reigning United States Sr. National Champ and the 2021 Pan American Champion at 61KG. You know, one of those weight classes that the I.O.C. cuts out of the Wrestling lineup EVERY time the Olympics rolls around. Just sayin. Apologies, Columbia. Got off track a bit there. There are no November events on the Lions schedule. Not a thing, though, as the Lions are set to visit the Cliff Keen Las Vegas and The Southern Scuffle first weekends of December and January respectively. Back from Chattanooga Columbia hosts Long Island University on January 9th. Thats one of just three home contests the Lions have set so far. Next its a visit to 4X EIWA Champ Lehigh on the 14th. On the 16th you know Morgantown (3) will be rocking as the host Mountaineers say hello to Columbia and Oklahoma State. The 22nd and 23rd puts the Lions deep behind enemy lines competitively, though not so much geographically, as they face Chris Ayres Tigers in Princeton and the Penn Quakers of Roger Reina in Philly. 2 more of the “Ancient 8″(also known as the Ivy League), Brown and Harvard, are Columbia’s last scheduled visitors this season. They’re in the Big Apple on February 11th. Then, its off to Fairfield, Connecticut on the 18th, to tangle with column fav the Sacred Heart Pioneers. John Clarks crew have a long and illustrious history in this column as their very special trajectory has been often and properly saluted. It’ll be a MATCH, folks. Frying pan to the fire as two days later Columbia claws its way into the RAC for a matchup with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, a burgeoning BIG 10 power with three returning All Americans, are NOT the “second team in three days” ANYBODY wants to see. They’ll be the last look for Columbia in the regular season, though, as the E I.W.A. Conference Tournament comes up next on the 5th and 6th of March. Look for Columbia to take big steps towards another winning season and for multiple Lions in Detroit for the NCAAs. Should be right at home.
SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON
VMI has set a full and sweet home table for the 2021-2022 season. The Keydets will welcome seven foes on six dates this campaign. The first visitor is cross border mauler West Virginia. You will NOT want to miss the first in a potential series of showdowns between VMI star 197lb Tyler Mousaw and AA Noah Adams of the Mountaineers. HOPEFULLY the rumors about Adams not returning are not accurate. MAC member Bloomsburg and Conference foe Gardner-Webb are scheduled for a Tri-Meet Jan 8th a week after VMI returns from the Southern Scuffle. On the 14th its a Column fav Fandago as Jim Gibsons Keydets host Frank Beasleys George Mason Patriots. SALUTE! No rest for VMI either as the 16th sees SoCon foe Presbyterian pay a visit. New Knights Head Coach Ned Shuck and his Bellarmine Knights are due the 28th. Lastly, the retooled and finally full rostered Davidson Wildcats will visit February 11th.
Gardner-Webb Head Coach Daniel Elliott is moving his Running Dogs to the fast track of National awareness with gritty results, highly regarded recruiting classes, and some savvy media awareness. That NICE home and tournament schedules not hurting the pub, either. Theres duals with twin Top Ten ACC powers NC State and Virginia Tech and a Boiling Springs, NC visit by Big 10 rising force Michigan State. Besides the Southern Scuffle G-W is part of a salty 8 team spread at the App State Invitational. The Running Dogs and host Mountaineers will be joined by the Big 10s Illinois and Indiana, PAC 12 power Arizona State (featured in last weeks Season 5, Column 10) Kent State from the MAC, Air Force (also Scuffle bound) from the Big 12 and Duke from the ACC. This column would be remiss in not sharing awareness of the hour plus of fun you’ll have listening to the BloodRound podcast, episode 341 featuring the Gardner Webb head coach. You’ll find yourself boppin to the theme song and changing levels the whole time. Keep the R rating filters and the ice packs handy, you may need both. Because of the hosts and the music, NOT the coach.
See you sometime soon!
(1) SO wanted to say BEATDOWN. SO wanted to say CURBSTOMP. That would not be nice. Message from our ladies: if you see nice, give it ten bucks and send it HOME. You know, where the titles headed.
*Intermat EIWA Correspondent Austin Sommer notes Kazimir may very well be set to go come November. If he comes back focused, add another AA threat to the 141 OR 149lb class this season.
(2) Does NOT stand for Catholic Youth Association.
(3) Theres excitement brewing in Mountaineer Country, folks. Check in on it with WVU Wrestling Director of Operations Kyle Bratke @KBratke on Twitter.